Sunday, 8 July 2018

Ngank Wen Bidi (Rottnest Island)


The most remote section of the Wadjemup Bidi trail network on Rottnest, the Ngank Wen Bidi explores the wild and rugged western end of the island. Starting at Narrow Neck, the trail explores pristine beaches before reaching the outstanding lookouts at Cathedral Rocks and Fish Hook Bay. Let down slightly by a less exciting second half, the excellent qualities of this trail still make it a must do



Distance: 7.6 km (loop)
Gradient: Some moderate descents and ascents from the beaches and along the road. Relatively flat otherwise
Quality of Path: Largely clear and well maintained - mix of beaches, purpose-built walk trail and road walking
Quality of Signage: Largely well signed, with the the Wadjemup Bidi markers providing clear directional information
Experience Required: Previous Bushwalking Experience Recommended
Time: Allow 3-4 Hours; can be done in 2 hours but it is a long way back to the Settlement so it is better to allow extra time just in case
Steps: Many steps, particularly to and from the beaches
Best Time to Visit: All Year
Entry Fee: Yes. Rottnest Island entry fees apply
Getting There: Rottnest can be reached by ferry or private vessel. The trail starts and finishes near the Rocky Bay bus stop




After successfully completing the Ngank Yira Bidi in the mnorning, Alissa and caught the bus on Rottnest to tackle its similarly named counterpart the Ngank Wen Bidi. So named because it explores the western end of the island, the similarity in name is due to the fact that Ngank Yira means  ‘sunrise’ while Ngank Wen means ‘sunset’. Being at the western end of the island, the Ngank Wen Bidi is the most remote walk of the Wadjemup Bidi’s five trails, and as such is at the furthest point from the Settlement. Given that we’d realised that time was not on our side based on the trail brochure’s suggested time of 3-4 hours, Alissa and I were in a race against time to complete the trail and get back to the ferry with hopefully enough time for a very late lunch. 

The trail starts from the same bus stop that we started the Karlinyah Bidi from, but heads west along the coast from Narrow Neck rather than east.



Almost immediately, the track descends to Rocky Bay via some well constructed boardwalk. The quality of the construction was outstanding, and Alissa and I were excited to see what else the trail had in store. 



Rocky Bay is a calm and tranquil beach, and features an interesting limestone formation out in the water. Looking at it closely, Alissa and I noticed a wooden pole holding the limestone up which suggests the Rottnest Island Authority is trying to keep this formation intact for as long as possible.



As with the boardwalk leading to the beach, the stairs leading off from Rocky Bay were well constructed. Alissa and I were once again impressed by the level of detail that had gone into making this trail. 



Upon from the beach, the trail continued along well constructed track as it headed along to the next bay along. 



The Ngank Wen Bidi leaves the well constructed walking track and joins a management track. While these are never ideal from a walker's perspective, they make sense from an economic point of view. On Rottnest, management track walking is less of a problem as there are no four wheel drives or dirt bike riders to ruin the experience. 



The track then descends to the beautiful Marjorie Bay - one of the major highlights of the walk. 



This beach has so much of what makes Rottnest's beaches so stunning - impressive limestone formations, white sand beaches and crystal clear water. This was another of those points of our day on Rottnest that made Alissa and I wish we could go for a swim. 



As with Rocky Bay, the beach exit from Marjorie Bay is well constructed. Above the beach is an area with a lot of revegetation in progress. I can imagine this area being even more beautiful once these seedlings are established. 



Initially following another vehicle track, the Ngank Wen Bidi then veers off once again onto well constructed walk trail. 



The next beach along is Mabel Cove. Mabel Cove is small and with a very small section of sandy beach, and the trail basically circles around without actually exploring the cove. At the end of the cove, the Ngank Wen Bidi joins bitumen road before returning to walk trail at Eagle Bay. 



Not to be confused with the more famous Eagle Bay in the Margaret River region (and part of the Meelup Trail in Meelup Regional Park), Eagle Bay is a stunning bay surrounded on all three sides by limestone cliffs. As a result of the sheer cliffs, the bay is more commonly visited by boats, and we witnessed a small party exploring the area. Beyond the bay, we could see a lot of people at a lookout point, which meant we were close to where the seal colony is!



Leading to the lookout point is a lovely artwork that is designed to represent three fur seals basking on the rocks. 



The Cathedral Rocks are an impressive series of small limestone islands just off the coast. Even without the presence of the New Zeal Fur Seals, this would be a worthwhile formation to check out while exploring Rottnest's wild west end. 



On the day of our visit, it was really hard to see the seals without binoculars as they were all on the rocks and weren't swimming in the water. Luckily the lookout is well appointed, with a set of binoculars on a pedestal allowing Alissa and I to spy the fur seals as they lazed on the rocks. While we had missed it, a lady at the lookout said that whales had been passing by mere minutes earlier, making this an excellent spot to see wildlife off the island's coast. 



After enjoying the view of the seals, Alissa and I continued along the trail. This stretch of the Ngank Wen Bidi was the busiest stretch of the entire Wadjemup Bidi that Alissa and I have walked, as it links up the Cathedral Rocks lookout to West End Boardwalk at Cape Vlamingh via a very popular bus stop on the Island Explorer bus service. 



The start of the side trip along Cape Vlamingh starts on a paved path that leads to the first lookout point. 



The lookout provides fine views of the rocky reefs of Shelly Beach below. Seeing the reefs really made me want to come back and do some snorkelling, however the rough seas gave me pause, especially with so many other safer snorkelling spots on the island. 



Continuing down the track leads to the West End Boardwalk. 



This is my favourite part of the entire walk, as it features some outstanding views of Fish Hook Bay. This is arguably one of the most beautiful places on the entire island, and is a must do for those visiting Rottnest.





The view from the end of the lookout is so spectacular that it inspired me to take two panoramic photographs - one of Fish Hook Bay...



... and the other of the rocky formations of Cape Vlamingh itself. 



Back from the boardwalk, the trail returns to the bus stop. Heading past the bus stop, the trail then heads along the road itself. After such a strong start with well constructed trails and incredible views, this felt like a bit of a step backwards but we kept at it, eager to see what else the track had to offer. 



Another side trip off the main walk leads to a lookout overlooking Radar Reef. 



While Radar Reef sounds like an awesome snorkelling spot, it is not - this area of rough waves is popular with only the most adventurous surfers given the somewhat treacherous conditions. 



Had Alissa and I been looking at the brochure for the walk, we would have noticed that Radar Reef was the last numbered point of interest along the walk - and yet there is a fair amount of trail left to complete the circuit. Had we seen this, we might have been prepared for what greeted us. 



I know I made a statement about vehicle tracks earlier, however the walk track along this section was the worst part of the whole walk, and would have to rank as some of the most boring walking of the entire Wadjemup Bidi. After the highs of what we had seen up to Fish Hook Bay, the quality of the walking decreased significantly from this point on as it felt like the trail designers really ran out of money after all the impressive boardwalks and just phoned in this very disappointing return leg. At least it was cool - this would be terrible walking at the height of Summer!



Nevertheless, there were some occasionally excellent viewpoints when the trail did return to the coast with a section along a limestone cliff providing more views of the rugged coastline.



Continuing along the track, Alissa and I could see that we had reached South Point overlooking Strickland Bay. With Strickland Bay on the other side of the aptly named Narrow Neck from Rocky Bay, Alissa and I knew we were getting close to the end!



At the time of our visit, Strickland Bay had apparently been washed away by winter storms, however it didn't look so bad to us. 



Another sculpture appears along the trail opposite Strickland Bay, and appears to be a popular spot to park up bikes. 



Having started the Ngank Wen Bidi right after completing the Ngank Yira Bidi, Alissa and I were really worried about time, especially given the brochure say to allow 3-4 hours for a 7.6 kilometre circuit. As we walked along the road back to the start of the walk, we felt relieved to know we'd completed the walk in less than 2 hours and would have time for a meal at the Settlement before our ferry! 



While our less than 2 hour time was due to rushing to beat the bus back to the Settlement, I feel like this trail could be done much faster than the 3-4 hour time but that walkers should allow at least 3 hours given that this is the most remote walk on the island and it is long way to go to get back to the Settlement. 



Ngank Wen Bidi is probably the most maddening of all the Wadjemup Bidi walks that Alissa and I have done to date, as it has some of the best and the worst walking of the entire trail network. The first half from Rocky Bay right up to Fish Hook Bay is the best and most exciting part of the Wadjemup Bidi thanks to its great beaches and outstanding lookouts, however the road walking and dull walking tracks from there on felt like a complete let down. It felt to me like they ran out of money and had to make do with the path of least resistance, but I really hope that while the Wadjemup Bidi is considered 'complete', that a future realignment will be considered to make this the great walk it really could be. For now, I would still recommend the Ngank Wen Bidi due to the beauty of Cathedral Rocks and Fish Hook Bay, but perhaps consider walking it in an anti-clockwise direction to get the boring stuff over and done with early. 

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